Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds ANNE CURRY: The battle commences. As I’ve said, Henry brings up his troops to a new forward position and the French then launch their attack. The first stage of their attack is the cavalry charge on both sides of the English army against the archers. But we’ve got to imagine here the archers letting loose their arrows. Although they only seem to have been given between given 24 each, that was the standard allocation, they are shooting in volleys. And that’s quite frightening because the French cavalry don’t know quite when the next arrows are going to come. That’s going to apply to the foot advance as well.
Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds To cut a long story short, the stakes prevent the horses getting close to the archers, and the arrows do a huge amount of damage to these cavalry charges. The cavalry charges then do not override the archers. Rather, as the horses turn, either riderless or still with their riders on them, they turn back and collide into the oncoming French vanguard. And so it is a very bad start to the battle for the French. We don’t know exactly when the French foot advance began, whether there is a gap between the cavalry charge and the French foot advance.
Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds Maybe the foot advance was intended to follow in quite quickly, so maybe we can imagine that the French foot have already started moving forward at this point. Now I said they were perhaps 5,000. The French had put all of their men at arms into this vanguard on foot and so they are moving forward at the same time as the horses are colliding into them. And also that foot advance is subject to volleys of arrows, as well, and goading from behind from that group of 200 archers. Research has shown that the effect of arrows against a group moving forward on foot is that they will form into a kind of funnel and so you collide into each other.
Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds One French account says the French were so tightly packed they couldn’t even raise their weapon arms. Some of the men would have fallen over. The ground they were walking across was very muddy. It was difficult to get up because of the weight of numbers coming behind them. Men fell on top of them. There is a great debate as to whether arrows could pierce armour or not but the volleys of arrows created a concussive effect and that is really pretty debilitating. And so the French vanguard advance grinds really to a halt and, on the English right, that’s a French left, the French vanguard seems to make a considerably greater advance than it does elsewhere.
Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds Because it does get to grips with the Duke of York, on the right, and the Duke of York is killed, the Earl of Suffolk is killed, and so there, the force of the French vanguard attack is considerable. But elsewhere, it is not at all and we have to debate whether many French men at arms actually were able to participate in the fighting or whether they’d already piled up and were easy pickings then for the English men-at-arms and also even for the archers.
Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds English archers were lightly armed and couldn’t normally participate in the melee, but if the French men-at-arms are disabled, then the archers can join into the melee and, therefore, explain why an army that has a very large number of men-at-arms in it, the French army, is defeated by an army that has a much, much smaller number of men-at-arms in it, the English army. On the face of it, an army with larger numbers of men-at-arms ought to win. The men-at-arms of both sides have similar equipment, they’ve all trained to fight over many years, therefore, we would have expected the French to have killed a lot of English people. That isn’t the case, the fatalities are all on the French side.
Skip to 4 minutes and 27 seconds Hardly any English seem to be killed in this battle at all. And that would suggest that many of the French men-at-arms never actually were able to participate in the battle itself. When that has happened, when all of this first advance has failed, when the archers have jumped into the melee also, the battle seems to have come to an end. Henry has won. And Henry orders his men to search through the heaps of dead for the living in order to take prisoners. This implies then that the French second division, or third division if they had one, did not attempt to move forward in any meaningful way.
Skip to 5 minutes and 16 seconds Maybe some of the second division did follow in after the first and suffered the same fate, but it doesn’t seem as though all of the French army had participated and many of them had already fled the field.
The battle itself: myth and reality
Based on the most recent research, Anne vividly describes what happened during the battle itself.
Anne outlines the actions of the English and French armies and you can get a real sense of why the battle proved so successful for the English - and so disastrous for the French.
Consider what you know of the battle already. Does any of Anne’s information surprise you?
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